NEWS 2009

October 10, 2009

Rape of forest goes on as more dig in


A group of Ogiek men at a meeting in Nakuru on Saturday. They said the community would not move out of the Mau as it is their ancestral land. Photo/JOSEPH KIHERI

As the government hesitates over the Mau evictions, felling of trees in the water tower continues unabated even as some opportunists are moving in in hopes of obtaining compensation.

Some settlers and encroachers are in a mad rush to build houses in a bid to use them to claim higher compensation while others are clearing away the remaining forest cover before the government moves in. 

The Kenya Forestry Service zonal manager in charge of Nakuru region, which covers the entire East Mau, Maasai Mau and parts of Western South Mau, Joseph Gitonga, said forest rangers were impounding stolen logs on a daily basis. 

Narok South District Commissioner M. C. Mongo said the building of new structures by Mau settlers was another ploy to influence the government on the issue of compensation after an earlier attempt to acquire fake title deeds was thwarted. 

The government and other relevant bodies, including the recently established interim co-ordinating secretariat , seem to be reading from different scripts, throwing the restoration of the Mau into confusion. 

While secretariat chairman Hassan Noor Hassan says the team wants to form a proper communication system for disseminating information on the Mau issue, the Kenya Forestry Service is already issuing statements on the evictions. 

On October 6 Mr Hassan told journalists he had nothing to tell the media until a communications system was set up, complete with a communications manager. He said the team would also come up with a timetable showing the dates and venues of their meetings. 

On the same day, the head of the Mau Conservancy under the KFS, Cosma Ikiugu, said the forestry service in collaboration with other government agencies would evict 20,000 encroachers settled in Nadham on the border of Konoin and Kuresoi districts, Olposimoru and Likia extension. 

He said there were more than 14,000 encroachers in Nadham which is part of the Mau Complex. About 6,000 in Olposimru and another group of 200 people were illegally cultivating Likia Extension. 

Mr Ikiugu said those targeted for eviction were encroachers who did not have title deeds. 

He said the ICS was still carrying out an audit of Mau title deeds and other land documents held by the settlers. 

On Otober 9 Mr Hassan was quoted as saying that his team would be overseeing repossession of the first 2,430 hectares of land in the Mau next week.

These statements don’t seem to have had any effect on the settlers and encroachers. It is business as usual for them, and some have vowed not to leave Mau with or without compensation. 

Joseph Towett of the Ogiek Welfare Council claimed the government had set aside parts of Mau for the community.

He said the entire Nessuit and Marioshoni locations in East Mau and Tinet in Western South Mau had been given to the community.

Mr Towett said the consensus was arrived at during a two-and-a-half hour meeting between the Ogiek delegation and the ICS at the latter’s office at NHIF Building in Nairobi. 

Recently, Konoin MP Julius Kones told the settlers not to panic as even those without title deeds would be compensated. 

Dr Kones told settlers at a funds drive in the area that there was a law that defends squatters. 

“We met the secretariat as Rift Valley MPs last week. Once the boundaries have been marked, then those who will have been found to be squatting on government forest should be given land elsewhere as it is the government’s responsibility to settle its own people,” the MP said.

This push and pull on Mau has been going on for some time with the matter generating much heat and little action. 

Nearly two years after efforts were renewed to save the water tower, politics has taken centre stage and little action seems to be taking place. True, there was the task force formed by Prime Minister Raila Odinga to look into the saga and make recommendations. 

Following heated politics that soured relations between Rift Valley MPs on the one hand and their party leader Mr Odinga on the other, the report by the task force was passed, albeit with changes. The government, according to the report, is now bound to compensate all settlers. 

Now with the Hassan Noor-led secretariat in place, the country is waiting to see how it navigates the muddied Mau waters.